Talking to a computer user that you have never met before through a computer problem can be a challenge. If you know the person you have a relative idea of how the person thinks and you can bark out the appropriate commands for them to respond. If you don’t know the person, you could easily find yourself speaking in a way that they don’t understand at all.
Yesterday I was talking a customer through a DSL issue. He couldn’t get connected to the internet. He was an older gentleman that yelled into the phone when he spoke, I think he thought yelling made the string between the cans vibrate faster. I had him open up his web browser (in which he shrieked, “I use FoxFire!”) and type in the address of his DSL modem. This went beyond his comprehension, because there was no “www” at the beginning and no “.com” at the end, it’s just a series of numbers. To make it easier I had him type out the “http://” at the beginning of the address.
He asked, “Is that the upper small letters or just the small letters?”
I responded with, “just the small letters. Don’t use ‘SHIFT'”.
He gave me an “o.k.” and we were doing well for a few seconds until I arrived at the colon in the address.
“Is that one with dots?”
“How many dots?”
“Two in a stack.”
“Where is it?”
“Next to the ‘L'”.
I heard him fiddle around and he replied, “I keep getting a comma in there!”
“It’s a capital semi-colon”, was my reply of resignation.
“Oh yeah!”, what his delighted response.
Thank goodness we didn’t have to approach the lower-case question mark for the “slash”1.
1 This is a particular nitpick of mine: the slash on the question mark is the “forward slash” and the other slash is the “backslash”. You use “forward slash” in web addresses. For the most part you only use backslash in Windows filenames (and yes I know about backslash use in other operating systems).